Perhaps the best-known series in social gaming, FarmVille is once again trying to raise a decent crop on the fertile grounds of mobile.
FarmVille 2: Country Escape is out for Android and iOS devices globally today. The title is a critical one for Zynga, which soared with Facebook games but stalled when it tried to make the move to mobile. This reboot is one of several major mobile titles coming that Zynga hopes will bring its mojo back.
Like the Facebook counterpart, Country Escape allows you to build your own farm by maintaining crops and animals. Friends can also visit your property and help your veggies grow. However, the mobile version will also accommodate players who’d rather play on their own.
“FarmVille pioneered social gaming on the web, and with FarmVille 2: Country Escape we’ve reimagined the franchise as a mobile experience to match how players want to connect with their farm and with their friends,” said Jonathan Knight, vice president of games at Zynga in a press release sent to GamesBeat. “The foundation of the mobile game was built on listening to player feedback, so we’ve added features such as giving players the choice to play with friends or on their own, connectivity between the mobile game and FarmVille 2 on Facebook, and the ability to play offline. We’ve created an experience where all FarmVille fans will feel right at home. As we focus on growing and sustaining this beloved franchise, we’re proud for FarmVille 2: Country Escape to usher in a new chapter of FarmVille on the go.”
Like the Facebook version, FarmVille 2: Country Escape is a free-to-play game. You also spend real money on an in-game currency, keys, that’ll speed up the experience. You can also put your friends’ avatars to work on your farm, setting them to fishing, mining, and other activities.
Country Escape represents a big step in publisher Zynga’s push for mobile, a market it’s never come close to dominating in the same way it owns Facebook gaming. Zynga previously released mobile versions of the original FarmVille: FarmVille and FarmVille Express, but they never caught on nearly as well as their Facebook counterpart. This left room for competitors, namely SuperCell’s Hay Day.
“We’ve created an opportunity for a company like Supercell with Hay Day by not bringing FarmVille to mobile,” Don Mattrick, the chief executive of Zynga, previously admitted in an interview with GamesBeat.
Now Zynga looks to make an impact with an iOS and Android version of its most popular Facebook game, FarmVille 2. The success of Country Escape could have a huge impact on one of social gaming’s biggest companies, which will report its financial performance results for its first quarter 2014 on April 23.
As noted in our earlier preview story, the new game picks up a lot of the improvements that Zynga made to FarmVille with the launch of FarmVille 2, and then it makes them work in a more contained space of a mobile device and a touchscreen interface. On mobile, you get to enjoy the more leisurely life of running a small farm on the seaside. It’s like an escape from your bigger farm on the Web.
FarmVille 2 is still Zynga’s top game, with a ranking of No. 15 on Facebook’s monthly active user ranking list. That’s a good rank, but FarmVille used to dominate the charts in 2009 and 2010 after reaching more than 80 million monthly active players. In the fourth quarter of 2013, FarmVille 2, Zynga Poker, and FarmVille represented 62 percent of Zynga’s revenue.
Zynga has tried to make mobile games before based on the original FarmVille (FarmVille and FarmVille Express), but they weren’t successful in the same way as its Facebook games were. But Zynga’s doing something different with this new mobile push: It designed the play sessions to be shorter, and the mobile game is a stand-alone title.
The gameplay resembles FarmVille 2. It should run at 60 frames per second on the iPad Air, or 30-frames per second on low-end tablets. It has animations like ambient movement, weather effects, animals that move and behave in a cute way, and planes that take off. Country Escape is built on top of Unity 3D game engine, with custom changes. And you can play the game on different devices — your farm is in the cloud.
The games are connected because it’s easy to run out of water in FarmVille 2. That causes you to either buy some water or wait for it to regenerate. With the Country Escape mobile game, you can generate water and then send it via truck to your web farm in FarmVille 2. Sugar, a key ingredient that you can use to make goods that you sell on your farm, is something you can get from friends. You can take wheat and turn it into flour by combining ingredients. Then you can make pies that you can sell. In that respect, the gameplay is similar to FarmVille 2.
You can log in via Facebook or other social networks. Players can play online or offline.
The game is social in that you can get your friends to help on your farm. You can actually pick up your friends and put them in an area so they can work. If you put them by the pond, they will start fishing and add value to your farm with the fish you catch. You can use a built-in chat system to talk with friends. And you can join a farming co-op with a bunch of players. That makes it easier to get ingredients that you need.
You can unlock things like Sophia’s wine tasting table, where you can buy and sell wines. The premium currency is a key, which you can use for a variety of purposes.
Dean Takahashi contributed to this report.